Judo Inside Out

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Author: Geof Gleeson
Pub: 1983 by Lepus Books
Pages: 155
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An extremely info-packed book for Judo coaches. Gleeson takes a look at the cultural differences between Japan and Britain, and discusses effective coaching techniques. This is his latest of three books, you should pick up his first two books, Judo for the West, and The Complete Book of Judo as well as this one. Highly recommended!


        Foreword, 11                                        
        Acknowledgements, 12                                
        Introduction, 13                                    
Chapter 1 Some Differences between Skill and Technique, 19
Chapter 2 Countering Skills, 41                           
Chapter 3 Let's Start Again, 55                           
Chapter 4 The Psychology of Competition -- or              
        How to Make the Most out of Very Little, 73
Chapter 5 A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, 103        
Chapter 6 A Summing Up, 137                               
        Glossary, 142                                
        Notes and Bibliography, 145                        
        Index, 153                                         



The higher echelons of coaching have been extraordinarily fortunate to have experienced the seminal influence of Geof Gleeson this past quarter-century. 'A dwarf on the shoulders of a giant sees further than the giant'. I have often been that dwarf on the author's shoulders, and yet, when I have stepped down again there has never been any trace of condescension in the continued guidance. There is no trace of condescension in this book.

Bernard Shaw said, 'The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress is made by the unreasonable man.' Geof Gleeson is both a reasonable and unreasonable man; by bringing his wide experience of life as both a top judo player and a top judo coach, together with his vast knowledge of eastern, western, marxist, christian and other philosophies on sport/judo, to bear upon the matters discussed in this book, he has prepared the way for the unreasonable man to progress and the reasonable man to adapt.

St Francis preached on the edge of the pool and the fishes said how beautiful and logical were his words and then went away and swam around as they had always done. Few are ever persuaded by argument; readers of this book, though they may change their views not at all, will see what is in their muddy pool far more clearly.

John Crooke, Shrewsbury, March 1982
Former Secretary, British Association of National Coaches
Former Director of Coaches' Training,
The Professional Tennis Coaches' Association of Great Britain
Twice British Professional Tennis Men's Doubles Champion



Judo was born in Japan a hundred years ago, in the land of the rising sun, a part of that world of mystery known as the Orient; a mystery created by Kipling, Maugham, Lafcadio Hearn and Dr Fu Man Chu. Paradox and ambiguity is expected from it and if they are not there, the West will inject some of its own. When something appears simple the West will make it complicated; when complicated it is made simple. Judo exploitation is an excellent example of this intellectual game of inside out. Take a simple act like falling over: any child can do it, but in judo it is raised to an art form-the Art of Falling; whereas something as difficult and as complicated as a competitive fighting skill is reduced to a technique that simply needs repetition to make it effective. Such a strange attitude is bound to develop strange practices and judo abounds in them. But it must be conceded that it is not helped by the foreign culture that is Japan. The oriental thinking is so different that great effort must be made to accommodate it. When I teach Japanese I always make the point in the first lesson that it is not the learning of the vocabulary and the grammar that is difficult, but understanding the concepts behind the words. So many of the things appear inside out to western minds. For example, the Japanese carpenter's saw cuts on the up-stroke and clears on the down-stroke, the Japanese house has the roof built first and the walls filled in after. So when I teach judo I have repeatedly to make the point that much of its practices have become confused because of this same lack of conceptual understanding behind the judo terminology, and therefore they must be prepared for paradox and ambivalence in the training. By turning some of these attitudes inside out, to look at the concepts from a completely different point of view, perhaps some of these mysteries may become less mysterious and the elementary more obvious.

To start as we intend to go on, let us ask what is the nature of judo? Judo when talked about by judo people is always treated as an 'individual sport', meaning that it is a sport for the individual not for a team. Well, perhaps it is not a team sport, like football, but it is certainly a group sport. No individual can do judo on his own; he needs the support and assistance of a whole army of people to help him to do his 'thing'. Not only is a partner or opponent obviously essential, but there are also all those fellow trainees who provide the opposition for him to sharpen his skills upon and offer him advice and help on how to improve his performance. Then there is the coach and/or a teaching staff, plus an organising group that includes secretaries, treasurers, committee members, and last, but by no means least, that band of referees, judges, time-keepers, all of whom the individual judo player cannot do without. Certainly Kano saw judo as a community-orientated activity rather than an individual-orientated one; this is shown clearly by his maxim, 'ji ta kyo ei',* and is elaborated on extensively in his writings.

* It is curious to notice that when the Japanese translate this maxim into English they invariably omit the 'ji ta', and some British, since the last war, seem to have forgotten what it means.

To participate in judo the individual will generally approach it through some group, either parents or friends. Such friends frequently take him to the judo group or introduce him in some other way, so the first of many judo expectations experienced by an individual will not be received from the judo group itself but from outside it. Such expectations, however seemingly ephemeral, will influence how that individual approaches the task of learning judo. Then, once in the judo group, the expectations and ideologies of the group will quickly impinge on the individual and he will need to compromise them with those he learnt earlier. After a short time, when his ability begins to make an appearance, he will become aware of other groups-the national governing body for example-and these too will affect how he learns, when he learns and what he learns. When he begins to compete seriously he will find himself having to deal with even further distant groups-but nevertheless important ones-the spectators, the media people and others. No, judo cannot be called an individual sport. It really is a group sport for not only are the competitive skills affected by these groups but many kinds of responsibilities and obligations will be generated by the relationships with those groups, which the individual must-or at least should- recognise and accept.

Having said that, it is quite understandable why judo has been seen as an individual sport. The competitive, sporting, aspect of judo has been defined by those throwing and grappling skills which appear to need only one man to do them. And this impression is strengthened when these skills are simplified further by treating them as techniques needing only one or two men to accomplish them. Once that attitude is accepted the next step towards over-individualisation comes when those techniques are treated as bottle-necks preventing developments into the broader ranges of skill acquisition, instead of narrow passes between technical and social skills, through which the performer frequently has to travel in both directions.

It is also of course so much easier to talk about and teach techniques because photographs of them can be taken, diagrams drawn and sequences of movements described. Group interactions are so much more difficult to represent. Some special types of diagram can be drawn but on the whole the phenomenon is abstract and impossible to represent by diagrams or photographs. So I will have to write about these interactions as provocatively as I can and then if the reader is interested he/she can follow the subject up in the reading material I have included in the bibliography at the back of the book.)

The metaphysical point I am trying to make is that technique cannot be treated in isolation as all judo text-books do, for there are many many other things which affect and modify all techniques when they are converted into a competitive skill. I will try to indicate some of these influences as a 'By the way' to be found scattered throughout the book: these are notes that are not directly related to the practical part, but contain an indirect influence that I consider to be important. However, somewhere has to be selected as a place to start from, so in this one instance I shall be conventional and choose the conventional place to start-technique. To facilitate this initial discussion let me tabulate and clarify the terminology-or the jargon -- I shall be using to describe offensive and defensive movements contained within the constraints of a skill.

An attack An offensive action, in standing or ground grappling, that is intended to elicit a defensive reaction from the opponent, or make a wring score; in practice it may not achieve either.

A right/left-handed throw. The direction in which the opponent falls-to his right side or left side-determines the title of the throw. In the following text all the throws described are right-handed unless otherwise stated.

An attacking movement. Refers generally to the movement necessary to get from the 'stand-off' position (i.e. in a standing-grappling situation) to a place where the attacker can make the throwing movement. The movements consist of the following parts:

Pivot foot/leg: the right foot is moved to an attacking position, the left foot swings, pivots, about that right foot into a position where it becomes the ...

Driving foot/leg: the left leg drives the whole attacker's body-weight into the direction of the throw. It should be noted this is not the only way to make an attacking movement, but it is the most effective.

Grip/hand-hold. The orthodox grip is: left hand holds partner's right sleeve, right hand holds opponent's collar (therefore left hand = sleeve-hand, right hand = collar hand); in practice judo players will vary this grip considerably.

Line of attack. Refers to the direction of the attack made on the opponent: usually it is straight from the front but occasionally it is, and can be, varied by changing the position of the feet (before the attack is launched) so that the line of attack can be from the (opponent's) sides or oblique front.

Direction of throw. Refers to the direction in which the attacker wants to throw the opponent: it can, but does not have to, line up with the line of attack; usually range is 270 (see diagram opposite), but it can be 360; standard throws like uchimata throw anywhere in the first two quadrants (180), seoinage can cover three quadrants (270), whereas throws like kouchi and kosoto can range through the third and fourth quadrants (360).

Opportunity. The 'trigger' that starts an attack may be a particular body-shape made by the opponent; it can be forced by the attacker through the use of tactics, or the opponent can make a mistake which creates an opportunity; it is better if the opportunity is forced because the attacker cannot always wait until a mistake is made-it may never happen!

When talking about simple attacks, just one attempt at a throw, it is fairly simple to differentiate between the attacker and the attacked (but even then not always); but once complex attacks are being analysed it can be very confusing. So I am using my own terms because I am assuming that the man being attacked is the weaker (less skilful) of the two and hence will be the centre of the action: he will be-

The target (in Japanese uke). But his is not the passive role. He is very much aware that he is the target and is able to move about aggressively both to avoid the attacks and/or stop them. When some elementary abstract situation is being discussed the name 'attacker', or 'defender' will be used in a passive way to indicate that the situation is not a real one.* The target is of course the objective of-

The hit-man (in Japanese tori). He is the slightly better performer, both in terms of experience and skill, so he invariably sets the conditions of the match and the target has to respond as best he can; when the situation is not real, he will be known simply as the 'partner' or the 'opponent'.

* Most judo text-books talk about the opponent as if he had not a thought in his head.

It is understood, I hope, that all the above terms will apply equally in ground grappling. By and large standing-grappling is so much more dynamic and exciting than ground-grappling, that it is to be expected that it needs a greater range of terminology to cover all eventualities. However, ground-grappling will need -at some time- all the same terms.

So now let's get to it - turn as much as possible inside out and see what falls out!



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